Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The West Memphis Three

Other Suspects

Despite the WMPD's focus on Damien as their prime suspect there were other possibilities which were not thoroughly investigated, a situation which could easily lead to the assumption that police chose to ignore any evidence which directed the investigation away from Damien Echols.

On the night of the murders, at 8:42 p.m., the police received a call from Marty King, the manager of the Mr. Bojangles Restaurant near Robin Hood Hills. He reported that a black man "dazed and covered with blood and mud" had been in the women's restroom for about an hour. Officer Regan Meek followed up the call by driving up to the drive-through window. She testified later that she had not gone inside as the restaurant was out of her ward. She also agreed that it had been near to the area where the boys were last seen. After the boys were found, police followed up on this report and took blood samples from the toilets. These samples however were mysteriously lost and no results are known. This incident became much more significant when laboratory reports showed that two human hairs were found on the victims' clothing, one of which was Negroid in origin.

John Mark Byers
John Mark Byers

In November 1993, John Mark Byers was interrogated by WMPD officers after he had given a knife to a member of a film crew who were making a documentary about the case. During questioning by the police, John Mark Byers admitted that he had given the knife away. He also stated that his wife Melissa had given it to him for Christmas, two or three years previously and he had never used it. He kept it in the top drawer of a dresser in his bedroom where he was sure that neither of the boys could have gained access to it. When asked whether anyone might have cut themselves with the knife, Byers stated that he was certain that no one had. This story changed when the interviewing officer told him that blood had been found on the knife. Byers then recalled that he had used the knife to cut up some deer meat at home. When he was told that the blood found on the knife had matched Christopher's blood type, Byers continued to assert that he had no idea how Christopher's blood had come to be there.

Later after test results on Melissa, Ryan and John Mark Byers were concluded, it was found that the blood stains matched in blood type with both John and Christopher Byers. No further testing was carried out which could have determined more conclusively whether it was Christopher or John Mark Byers's blood.

Another item of evidence which could have linked John Mark Byers to the murders, at least as much as any evidence brought against Damien, Jason and Jessie, was the presence of another human hair on the victim's clothing. It was a black Caucasian hair which was shown to be microscopically similar to both John Mark Byers and Damien Echols. Unfortunately, nothing more specific was determined.

During this interrogation the interviewing officer asked Byers what medication he was on to which he answered Xanax and Zorinal which he stated were anti-depressants. When he was asked whether he had any other medication he told police no, yet he had stated at other times that he was taking Tegretol which is the brand name of the drug Carbamazepine. This is the same substance which was found in non-therapeutic amounts in Christopher's blood after his death. Christopher had also been taking Tegretol according to his medical records, but Byers had stated that Chris had not taken his medication on the day that he went missing.

Although there were many items of evidence that could have pointed to John Mark Byers as the murderer of the three boys, he was never considered by police as a suspect nor was he ever thoroughly investigated. It is interesting to note that John Mark Byers was on very friendly terms with the investigating officers and was a drug informant for the WMPD at the time of the murders. Could bias in favor of Byers and against Echols on the part of the investigating police have blinded them to any evidence which might have led the investigation away from Damien and toward Byers?

Finally, the tennis shoe imprint which was found on the creek bank near the bodies, did not match with any footwear owned by Damien, Jessie or Jason. This fact would again suggest that police should have been concentrating their investigations in another direction.

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